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Calumba. U. S. (Br.) Calumba. Calumb, [Columbo, Columba, Colombo]

Related entry: Coscinium

"The dried root of Jateorhiza palmata (Lamarck) Miers (Fam. Menispermaceae)." U.S. "Calumba Root is the root of Jateorhiza Columba, Miers, cut in transverse slices and dried." Br.

Calumbae Radix, Br.; Calumba Root; Radix Columbo; Colomba, U. S. 1850; Racine de Colombo, Fr. Cod.; Colombo, Fr.; Radix Colombo, P. G.; Kolombowurzel, G.; Colombo, It.; Colombo, Raiz de Colombo, Sp.; Kalumbo, Port.; Calumb, Mozambique.

Calumba is official in nearly all pharmacopoeias. The difference in botanical origin as given in the definition in the U. S. and British Pharmacopoeias is merely one of synonymy, as J. palmata (Lamarck) Miers is merely another name for J. Columba Miers. There is considerable confusion in the spelling of both the generic and specific names: Jateorhiza is spelled by most of the European Pharmacopoeias Jateorrhiza. In the same way the specific name is usually given as Calumba and not Columba.

Jateorrhiza palmata is a dioecious climbing plant, with a perennial root consisting of several fasciculated, fusiform tuberous portions. The stems are twining, cylindrical, hairy and simple in the staminate plant, being branched in the Distillate plant. The leaves, which stand on rounded, glandular, hairy footstalks, are alternate, distant, cordate, with three, five, or seven entire, acuminate, wavy, somewhat hairy lobes, and as many nerves, each running into one of the lobes. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, and arranged in solitary axillary racemes, which in the staminate plant are compound, in the pistillate simple, and in both plants are shorter than the leaves.

The Calumba plant is indigenous to Mozambique, on the southeastern coast of Africa, where it grows wild in great abundance in the thick forests extending from the sea many miles into the interior. It is more particularly abundant in the region between the Zambezi and Rovuma. (Ap. Ztg., 1912, p. 147.) The root is dug up in March, when dry weather prevails. From the base of the root numerous fusiform offsets proceed, less fibrous and woody than the parent stock. These offsets are separated and cut into transverse slices, which are dried in the shade. The old root is rejected.

The plant is said to be cultivated both in Africa and the East Indies for the sake of its root, which under the name of Calumb is used in dyeing.

Calumba is sent from the Portuguese dominions in Southeastern Africa into India, from whence it goes into general commerce. At one time, when thought to be a product of Ceylon, it was supposed to have derived its name from Columbo, a city of that island, but a much more probable derivation is from the African name of the root above given. (See Lloyd's history of Colombo root, West. Drug., 1898, 8.)

Properties.—It is officially described in the U. S. P. as "in circular or oval disks attaining a diameter of 9 cm. and seldom exceeding 2 mm. in thickness, or in longitudinal or in oblique slices attaining a length of 30 cm., a breadth of 35 mm. and a thickness of 16 mm.; externally brown and roughly wrinkled; cut surface varying from yellowish-brown to grayish-yellow, the transverse slices distinctly radiate in the outer portion and with a dark cambium; central portion often depressed; fracture short, mealy; odor slight; taste slightly aromatic, very bitter. The powder is greenish-brown to grayish-yellow; starch grains numerous, mostly single, occasionally 2- to 3-compound, the individual grains from 0.003 to 0.085 mm. in the long diameter, ovoid, ellipsoidal, frequently very irregular, slightly lamellated, with an ex-central linear x-shaped or branching cleft; stone cells few with irregularly thickened, strongly lignified, coarsely porous walls and containing one or more prisms of calcium oxalate from 0.01 to 0.03 mm. in length, or numerous sphenoidal micro-crystals; fragments with tracheae few, the latter with reticulate thickenings or bordered pores, and associated with wood-fibers having long, oblique, slit-like pores. Calumba yields not more than 8 per cent. of ash." U. S.

The drug is described in the British Pharmacopoeia as follows: "Cork thin, brownish and wrinkled; cortex thick, yellowish and separated by a dark line from the greyish wood, in which the parenchymatous tissue is largely developed and the vessels arranged in narrow elongated groups. In the cortex, in transverse section, numerous isolated sclerenchymatous cells, with yellow, irregularly thickened walls enclosing small prismatic crystals of calcium oxalate; in the wood, vessels with yellow reticulated walls. The parenchymatous cells of both wood and cortex filled with starch grains, which are irregularly ovoid in outline, from 20 to 70 microns in length, and exhibit a conspicuous, excentric, radiate or cleft hilum." Br.

Along with the disks are sometimes a few cylindrical pieces an inch or two in length. The cortical portion is thick, of a bright yellow, slightly greenish color internally, but covered with a brownish, wrinkled epidermis. The interior or medullary portion, which is readily distinguishable from the cortical, is light, spongy, yellowish, usually more or less shrunk, so that the pieces are thinnest in the centre; and is often marked with concentric circles and radiating lines. Those pieces are to be preferred which have the brightest color, are most compact and uniform, and least worm eaten.

The odor of calumba is slightly aromatic. The taste is very bitter, that of the cortical much more so than that of the central portion, which is somewhat mucilaginous. The root is easily pulverized. The powder is greenish, becoming browner with age, and deepening when moistened. As it attracts moisture from the air, and is apt to undergo decomposition, it should be prepared in small quantities.

The crude drug, as well as the powder, is liable to be attacked by insects if kept for any length of time. This can be guarded against by thoroughly drying the drug, keeping it in a dry place, and adding either carbon tetrachloride or chloroform. According to the U. S. P. microscopical description, it is inferred that the calcium oxalate crystals occur only in the stone cells. Tunmann (Ph. Zentralh., 1906, p. 1069) asserts that the crystals are distributed throughout the woody portion of the root as well as in the bark, and outlines a method for readily demonstrating their presence.

Adulterations.—Formerly the high price of calumba led to its frequent adulteration, especially, it is said, with the roots of the white bryony, and of Frasera carolinensis or American calumba, and with the stem of Coscinium fenestratum, the columbo wood or false columbo of Ceylon. According to Stoize of Halle, the American calumba can be readily detected by the fact that while the tincture of true calumba is not affected by ferric sulphate or sesquichloride, and yields with tincture of galls a dirty precipitate, the tincture of Frasera be. comes dark green with the former and is not affected by the latter reagent. Coscinium fenestratum, a bitter tonic used in Ceylon, is at once to be distinguished by its being a stem, not a root, and is said not to have appeared upon the market for many years. At present, owing to its great cheapness, calumba root seems to be very rarely adulterated (see P. J., 1901, 502, and Dec., 1904), although a specimen of calumba yielded, on incineration, 16 per cent. of ash. Holmes believes that the fictitious drug is the overground portion of Jateorrhiza palmata, while Wardleworth believed that the drug is a product of Tinospora Bakis (A. Rich.) Miers which is used in Senegal as an anti-periodic.

Chemistry.—Planche analyzed calumba in 1811, and found it to contain a nitrogenous substance, probably albumen, in large quantity, a bitter yellow substance not precipitated by metallic salts, and one-third of its weight of starch. He obtained also a small proportion of volatile oil, salts of calcium and potassium, ferric oxide, and silica. Wittstock, of Berlin, afterwards isolated a principle, which he called columbin. This crystallizes in beautiful transparent quadrilateral prisms of the formula C21H22O7, is without odor, and is extremely bitter. It is but very slightly soluble in water, more soluble in alcohol, ether, or chloroform, and imparts to these fluids a strongly bitter taste. It is more soluble in boiling alcohol, which deposits it upon cooling. The best solvent is diluted acetic acid. It is taken up by alkaline solutions, from which it is precipitated by acids. It is obtained by exhausting calumba by means of alcohol of the sp. gr. 0.835, distilling off three-quarters of the alcohol, allowing the residue to stand for some days until crystals are deposited, and lastly treating these crystals with alcohol and animal charcoal. The mother waters still contain a considerable quantity of columbin, which may be separated by evaporating with coarsely powdered glass to dryness, exhausting the residue with ether, distilling off the ether, treating the residue with boiling acetic acid, and evaporating the solution to crystallization.

P. E. Alessandri (L'Orosi, v. 1; P. J., 1882, p. 995) isolated columbine (which he considers an alkaloid) by the following process: An infusion of calumba is made with a 3 per cent. solution of oxalic acid; the yellow bitter liquid is neutralized with ammonia and evaporated to one-third its bulk; it is, when cooled, treated with ether, separated, and the ethereal solution on evaporation yields pure white calumbine. Allesandri obtained v/hat he called berberine from calumba by neutralizing a cold infusion, made with diluted oxalic acid (3 per cent.), with baryta; the precipitate which is produced is separated. The liquid is heated, allowed to stand for twenty-four hours to allow the barium oxalate to deposit, filtered, and then a current of carbonic acid is passed through to remove barium oxide. It is then treated by shaking the ammoniacal liquid with ether as in Alessandria process for calumbine (see above), and, after the ethereal layer is separated, the aqueous liquid is evaporated to dryness. Columbic acid may be obtained from the precipitate produced by the addition of barium oxide to the oxalic acid infusion. Bocchiola (Y. B. P., 1891, p. 162) states that the older roots contain more of the active principles than the younger ones. He found that the inner and the outer portions of calumba also vary in their constituents; thus in the woody or inner part he found the following percentages: calumbine 1.90, berberine 0.72, ether extract 0.80, alcoholic extract 3.86, diluted alcoholic extract 17.80, ash 6. In the cortical or outer part he found calumbine 1.42, berberine 1.43, ether extract 0.70, alcoholic extract 3.89, diluted alcoholic extract 17.96, ash 5. He assigns to columbin the formula C21H24O7, and to columbic acid C21H22O6. (Zeit. Oest. Apoth. Ver., 1896, No. 1, 8-14.) Gordin questioned the presence of berberine in calumba and Gadamer, Feist and Gunzel proved the absence of berberine and stated that calumba contains calumbamine, C21H22O5N.OH, jateorrhizine, C20H20O5N.OH, and probably palmatine, C22H24O5N.OH, the last formula not having been positively proved. (A. Pharm., 1907, No. 8, 586.) Haensel (P. J., 1904, 216) obtained from calumba a volatile oil which exists in very small quantities (0.00568 per cent). It has a peculiar odor and bitter taste.

There can be little doubt that both columbin and the alkaloids contribute to the remedial effects of calumba. The virtues of the root are extracted by boiling water and by alcohol. Precipitates are produced with the infusion and tincture by infusion of galls, and by solutions of lead acetate and subacetate, but the bitterness is not affected.

Uses.—Biberfeld (Z. E. P. T., 1909, vii) has shown that all the alkaloids of calumba root are depressant to the central nervous system and especially to the respiratory center; palmatine indeed exceeds morphine in its respiratory toxicity; columbamine and jateorrhizine increases intestinal tonus. Despite these findings, however, it is improbable that calumba has any medical virtue aside from that of a mild bitter, free from astringency. It is useful in functional atonic conditions of the digestive organs, especially with other tonics, aromatics, or cathartics. A favorite remedy of the late George B. Wood for the cure of a disposition to the accumulation of flatus in the bowel was an infusion made with half an ounce of calumba, half an ounce of ginger, a drachm of senna, and a pint of boiling water, and given in doses of a wine-glassful three times a day. By the natives of Mozambique it is used in dysentery and various other diseases.

Dose, of the powder, from ten to thirty grains (0.65-2.0 Gm.), which may be repeated three or four times a day.

Off. Prep.—Fluidextractum Calumbae, N. F.; Infusum Calumbae, Br.; Tinctura Calumbae, U. S., Br.


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



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